First Love: John and Frances

“Capital ‘D’-e” {pause} “Capital ‘L,’-a-w-d-e-r.” I can still hear my grandmother Frances spelling out her last name to persons unfamiliar with the surname. “DeLawder is two words, she said, always ending the spelling with this explanation. Frances clung to the name in honor of her beloved John and his family decades after his departure. 

In keeping with her Victorian upbringing, she remained faithful to her first love. I have said “John DeLawder lived a long and prosperous life after he died in 1924,” Frances never allowed his memory to fade. John was the epitome of the knight-in-shinning-armor; or, at least he morphed into this over the years. His thick dark hair, blue eyes, and chiseled features where not outdone by his unabashed tenderness and ambition.

top left: Rebecca Ruth (b. 1894), Martha May (b. 1897)
Kingsbury (b. 1892), and John Lurman (b. 1898.)

John Adam DeLawder and Rosa Alice Glotfelty married on September 3, 1889 in Deep Creek, Garret MD. John Lurman followed sisters Rebecca Ruth, Martha May, and brother  Kingsbury. The DeLawder family settled in nearby Washington DC, where John Adam worked in the government printing office.

Like the Davis family, the DeLawders where middle class Americans. Both heads of households held long-term government positions, Albert as a clerk for the Pension Department and John Adam DeLawder as Assistant Foreman in the Printing Office.

High school provided an outlet for Frances’ outgoing nature and enthusiasm. At home she was expected to be quiet and reserved. Her passion for life flourished in the public high school she attended. She received the praises and accolades of her instructors. At Business High School in Washington DC, she learned typewriting and stenography, she danced, played basketball, played tennis, and swam. Her undeniable charm made her a natural leader, being elected Vice President of the student body government. In her senior year she competed with the rifle team, and dabbled in the theater arts.

 

Washington Post, June 4 1914

Girls Rifle Team
Business High School 1914
Washington DC
(Frances is bottom row, left

In that same year the Davis family moved from 214 “A” St SE, Washington DC to Takoma Park MD, on the outskirts of the city. Frances’ determination to graduate entailed a daily commute on the street cars arriving home barely in time for the evening meal. Frances completed her public schooling in June 1914

Before graduation, Frances attracted the attention of a boy. He was a prize. George, Frances’ younger brother by two years, also liked John DeLawder very much and approved of the match. Mutual friends introduced them. John attended the McKinley Manual Training School across the street from Business High School in Congress Heights of Washington DC. From their first meeting, John was gallant, never engaging in degrading conversation about the “weaker sex.” Frances and John shared their lunch break, and so began a great love. 

Canoeing on the Potomac River, walks along the towpath, and secret passions was everything a girl could want in a boy. With John she was free from her distant father, who never tired of believing that Frances “should have been a boy” and her somber mother who believed that girls where “shedding their femininity.”

John Lurman DeLawder (1898 – 1924)

John graduated from McKinley in 1916 where he had studied science. He aspired to be a bacteriologist. He found his way into the Bureau of Standards(the Federal Governments first physical science research laboratory),  where he was appointed apprentice later that same year. It may have been John’s abilities that landed him the position in the Bureau of Standards from instructors at his high school as implied by this note in a closed case FBI file. John understood higher education was the way up and applied himself to study with as much vigor as he worked.

John would spend his weekends with his sweetheart in rural Takoma Park and travel back to the city for weekdays. She mourned his absence those days but John could not be persuaded to marry before he could provide for a wife and eventual children.

The nation’s capital was abuzz with the talk of war as the United States failed to negotiate neutrality in the European conflict.  Young John may have viewed the war as an opportunity to advance his career. At the age of 19 years, John and close friend Francis “Fran” Clarke enlisted in the Army at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C as part of the National Guard.

He and Clarke where immediately sent to Long Island, NY for training at Camp Mills. They were assigned to the Medical Corps. The two friends departed for distant France soon after.

Copyright  ©amanoffamily.com 2012

edited by Donora Hillard

The Lost Manuscript

I can still hear the tap-tap-tap of the portable electric typewriter keys as they struck the paper and the ding as the carriage neared the completion of another sentance ….. it was a work in progress, typing and re-typing the story that wanted to be told but Frances never finished her story.Before the days of Xerox and Kinkos the only way to produce a copy of a typed record was to insert carbon paper behind the front sheet which would have contained the original key strokes.
Frances started working on her book the year I was expected into this world. Not too long after Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers had both published their accounts of their lives as communists in the underground.

There was a manuscript produced, indeed there where probably two versions of the manuscript at one time and at least one was sent off for a publishers review. The manuscript was sent but was never printed or returned …. it whereabouts remained a mystery until now.
A Google search of grandfathers name a few months ago yielded a link to the unpublished manuscript.

I nearly fell off of my chair when I read the title: “Time and Chance: The Autobiography of Frances DeLawder.” Having read a copy of the much rumored manuscript only recently upon the death of my mother it was more than surprizing to find it listed in the WorldCat.

After sending off a few emails in the early morning hours I was filled with anticipation. Where could this manuscript be after all of these years? The next morning I found my answer waiting in my inbox … the manuscript landed in the library of the CIA.  It has been rumored that parts of this manuscript have been borrowed but thanks to the wonders of the internet it has been located.

Time and Chance: An Autobiography of Frances DeLawder
copyright ©amanoffamily.com 2010